The kids in our lives must wonder why we adults spend so much time and money trying to keep insects away. My son loves to capture insects of all kinds. They’re such fascinating creatures. He can spend hours observing them, and before we know it, he’s named them and declared them his “pets!” Of all the creeping and crawling insects, he’s partial to moths and butterflies.
We’re going to make moth “brew”, a sweet, syrupy, goopy elixir that moths can’t resist. Pick a good night for observing moths. You might have to let the young ones stay up past your bedtime, so make it a night where you don’t have to be up extra early the next day. You’ll also want to watch the weather. You’ll have the most success on warm, dry evenings (above 50 degrees F).
Here’s what you’ll need:
Some recipes we use in the kitchen require strict measurements, but moth brew isn’t one of them. The goal when making moth brew is to combine the ingredients in a way that produces a brew with the right consistency. It needs to be thick enough so that it doesn’t drip and attract ants, but thin enough to be able to spread with a brush. Have you ever come across a recipe that uses ratios in place of precise measurements, such as our Shortbread Cookie Recipe?
Well, here’s your chance to come up with your own unique moth brew recipe, using the ratios you think will produce the goopiest brew that attracts the most moths! Which ingredients can you use to thicken your brew if it’s too runny? If it’s too thick, what can you use to change the consistency? Keep track of how much of each ingredient you use, and then write down your own super-special moth brew recipe (although it’s up to you if you keep it super-secret).
Once your brew is ready, wait until dusk, and then paint your brew onto trees or logs (the brew can stain, so make sure you don’t paint it on fences or the side of your house). A wide paintbrush (like the kind you’d paint your house with) works great. Paint an area about 12 inches big. Can you paint a 12-inch square? How about a circle? What does it mean to paint a 12-inch stripe around the circumference of a tree? Check back every 30 minutes or so and see if you’ve attracted any moths.
When you go out to check for moths, remember that bright lights may distract them from your tasty treat! Keep your flashlight pointing down, or tape some red paper to the lens of your flashlight.
Count the number of moths you see, as well as the variety. We were surprised at how many different kinds of moths we attracted with our brew – who knew we had such a variety of winged friends in our backyard? What was even cooler was waking up to find this big, beautiful Luna Moth enjoying our brew!
Entomologists use math all the time to keep track of the wide, wonderful world of insects. Now you can use your awesome math skills to do the same thing in your very own back yard!
If you’re a fan of sticky, goopy syrups, don’t miss our Bedtime Math problem about boiled soda pop.
Images courtesy of Angie Six